Encouragement, Suffering

Five Words of Encouragement for Spiritual Warfare’s Battle-Weary Soldiers

Anybody who tells you the Christian life is all lollipops and unicorns is selling something. No reasonable person who is the slightest bit familiar with the New Testament or church history could honestly believe that. The New Testament church was born and baptized in blood – first the blood of Christ, and the blood of His martyred disciples ever since.

In the spirit, God blesses us with joy unspeakable and full of glory, the peace that passes all understanding, and the comfort of “Lo, I am with you always.” And that is much to be thankful for, because life in the robe of flesh would be unbearable without those blessings.

But as we walk this real, tangible, eat your veggies and brush your teeth phase of existence, Jesus isn’t just a pretty pink purse we pick up along the way to complement our life’s wardrobe. To put on Christ is to volunteer to wear a target on your back. And your front, come to think of it. Because when you unapologetically stand for Christ and the truth of His Word, you will not only face a full frontal attack from the world, you’ll also risk being stabbed in the back by those you thought were comrades in arms.

Dealing with and responding to those attacks – that’s what spiritual warfare is. Not this modern, ridiculous, NAR-inspired version of “binding” Satan and bellowing commands into the air as though you have the power and the authority to boss the devil around (Even Michael the archangel wouldn’t go there.). We’re called to be good soldiers of Christ Jesus, not the Commander.

As good soldiers in the Lord’s army (yes sir!) real, biblical spiritual warfare is being protected and prepared in the spirit to righteously and courageously walk out biblical truth on the battlefield of whatever tangible circumstances God has placed you in. It’s understanding that those attacking you are not your real enemy – not the ones calling the shots. They’re soldiers, just like you. They’re either lost and ensnared by the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (kind of a spiritual Stockholm Syndrome), or it’s friendly fire from someone in your unit who’s saved, but has somehow, momentarily mistaken you for the enemy.

But the wounds of warfare are painful and debilitating no matter who’s wielding the weapon. So for all of you ladies who have been persecuted by the world, attacked by family, abused by fellow church members, and abandoned by friends simply for holding fast to Christ and His Word and refusing to compromise, let these words of encouragement from the very One you cling to salve your soul…

1.
Jesus knows how you feel

There will never be a moment when we can cry out to Jesus from the depths of our desperation, “You have no idea what this is like – how badly it hurts!”. Yes, He does. Not just because He’s omniscient. Not just because He knitted you together in your mother’s womb and knows all the secrets of your heart. But because He walked that lonely and painful road Himself, as a man in the flesh, just like you.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not…
…we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted…
…He was oppressed, and he was afflicted…
…By oppression and judgment he was taken away…
…And they made his grave with the wicked…although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
From Isaiah 53

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
Psalm 22:6-8

Many of them said, “[Jesus] has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?”
John 10:20

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me [Jesus] before it hated you.
John 15:18

and coming to his hometown [Jesus] taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?…And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”
Matthew 13:54,57

Jesus knows how you feel, Dear One. He knows.

2.
Jesus loves you

There may be times when you feel like everyone is against you. It’s hard to be hated. But hold on to this truth and don’t let go of it: Jesus loves you. He delights in you. He will never turn His face away from you.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Jeremiah 31:3b

All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Psalm 25.10

I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul,
Psalm 31:7

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:5

3.
Jesus will sustain you

Jesus isn’t a lifeline that only reaches halfway across the rushing river. He is our rock. Our fortress. Strength. Sustenance. Stability. What He brings you to, He will bring you through, as the old saying goes. He’s not going to abandon you in the middle of your troubles or fail to provide grace and help when you need it. You can trust Him.

you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:9-10

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.
Psalm 54:4

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
Hebrews 13:6

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Psalm 55:22

our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:7b-8

4.
Jesus will honor you

In the world’s eyes, voluntarily suffering for the name of Christ is shameful, pitiable, foolish, and worthy of derision. In God’s economy, sharing in Christ’s sufferings is an honor and worthy of reward.

and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
Acts 5:40-41

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:10-12

[Moses] choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Hebrews 11:25-26

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you…Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
1 Peter 4:13-14,16

5.
Jesus will vindicate you

Perhaps one of the greatest comforts in the midst of the battle fatigue of spiritual warfare is God’s omniscience and justice. Not a single insult will be hurled at you that escapes His notice. None of the flak you’ve taken for Him will slip through the cracks and be forgotten. One day, whether here or hereafter, God will set everything right.

Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all.
Isaiah 41:11-12

For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.
Psalm 135:14

You have seen the wrong done to me, O Lord; judge my cause. You have seen all their vengeance, all their plots against me. You have heard their taunts, O Lord, all their plots against me. The lips and thoughts of my assailants are against me all the day long. Behold their sitting and their rising; I am the object of their taunts.

You will repay them, O Lord, according to the work of their hands. You will give them dullness of heart; your curse will be on them. You will pursue them in anger and destroy them from under your heavens, O Lord.
Lamentations 3:59-66

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Revelation 6:9-10

As you suffer for the Name above all names and do battle for His cause, strengthen your hands for combat with His great and precious promises, which can never be broken. Rest in Jesus’ love for you. Know that He understands your pain and anguish. Trust Him to sustain you. Believe that He will honor and vindicate you. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Which promises do you cling to in the midst of spiritual warfare?

Encouragement, Pop Theology

God created you to do amazing things?

Image may contain: text that says 'God created you to do amaging things! -Ephesians 2:10'

 

A while back, I saw this meme posted by a woman who is in a significant position of leadership in a Christian organization.

Ladies – especially those of us who lead, teach, and minister to women – we ought not be posting or teaching things like this.

First of all, it’s misleading. This is not what Ephesians 2:10 says. Ephesians 2:10 says:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Someone has taken it upon herself to summarize the verse in her own words and created a meme which makes it look like Ephesians 2:10 is being quoted. And her summary is incorrect – a mishandling of God’s Word.

Which brings me to point number two. This is not what Ephesians 2:10 means.

The “good works” God has prepared for us to walk in are seldom amazing – at least not in the way we usually define the word “amazing”. Changing diapers, doing the laundry, breaking up fights between siblings, dealing with unreasonable bosses and annoying co-workers, and scrubbing toilets can all be “good works” God has ordained for us to perform to His glory, but most people wouldn’t call those things “amazing”. They’re mundane. Ordinary. Everyday life types of things.

And that’s OK!

First Thessalonians 4:10b-12 puts it like this:

But we urge you, brothers…to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

God has called us to serve Him and one another, and that is usually plain, unglamorous, non-prestigious, hard work. Forget “amazing” – often, no one will notice or thank us for our good works, or if they do notice, they might criticize the job we’ve done.

Finally, cotton candy “theology” like this ends up being discouraging in the long run:

“God created me to to amazing things, huh? This morning I ironed, cleaned dog vomit off the rug, and spent an hour ferrying kids to various activities. That doesn’t feel very amazing. When does this ‘amazing’ thing kick in? How long do I have to wait?”

Or:

“I’m a single mom with a full time job and three kids. I barely make it to church every week and struggle to get six hours of sleep a night with all I have to do. I’m exhausted. And now you’re telling me I have to do something ‘amazing’ on top of that?”

Or:

“I’m just an ordinary woman. God hasn’t really given me anything ‘amazing’ to do. Maybe He doesn’t love me. Maybe I don’t have enough faith, or I’m not praying hard enough, or there’s some secret sin in my life that I’m not aware of. Maybe I’m not even saved. What a failure I am.”

Ladies, ideas like the one in this meme do more harm than good. If we want to encourage each other, we need to do it biblically – with what God’s word actually says and with what God’s word actually means – with good, sound theology.

Encouragement, Ministry

Throwback Thursday ~ 7 Ways to Encourage Your Minister of Music

October is Pastor Appreciation Month!
Show your minister of music some appreciation by encouraging him.

Originally published November 18, 2014

7 encourage MoM

Numerous articles have been written about how you, as a church member, can be an encouragement to your pastor- how you can constructively praise his sermon, pray for him, get him a great gift for Pastor Appreciation Month, etc. These are good things. Please be sure to support your pastor. Being a pastor is one of the toughest and most thankless jobs out there, and if you’ve read the statistics you know pastors need and deserve all the encouragement they can get.

But the pastor isn’t the only person on your church’s staff who needs your support. So does your minister of music. And, having been married to one for over twenty years, I can tell you there aren’t many articles out there letting you know how church members can encourage their ministers of music. Ready to show some love? Here are seven ways you can be an encouragement to your minister of music.

1. Make practice a priority.

Before you join the choir or praise team or volunteer to play an instrument, find out how much of a time commitment it will be, and consider whether or not you can diligently keep that commitment. Once you’ve joined or volunteered, attend rehearsals, worship services, and performances faithfully, and be sure to arrive on time. You have no idea how much it means to your minister of music that he can count on you.

2. Get to the church on time.

Think about how you would feel if you planned a dinner party, worked hard all week cooking and cleaning, and then one of the couples you invited carelessly showed up halfway through the meal. You’d probably think that was kind of rude and feel somewhat discouraged. That’s sort of the way a minister of music can feel when people (especially the same people every week) habitually arrive late to church for non-emergency reasons. Not only that, but it’s a distraction to others when you come in late, plus you’re missing out on praising God and getting your heart prepared to receive His word during the sermon. Being on time and ready for worship benefits everybody!

3. Sing.

If you were in a meeting at work or in a college class, would you pick up your knitting, clip your nails, walk around the room chatting with friends, or bury your nose in your phone the whole time? Probably not, yet, over the years I have seen church members do all these and more during the music portion of the worship service. It’s disrespectful to the God we’re supposed to be worshiping and to the minister of music who is trying to do the work God has called him to. On the other hand, I love it when we get in the car after church and my husband says, with a smile on his face, “Wow, they were really singing today!” We have an incredible Savior who has given us the privilege of praising Him, so let’s take Him up on it. Sing out! You can worship and be an encourager all at the same time.

4. Smile!

It’s pretty disheartening for a minister of music to stand up front, giving it all he’s got, and then look out over the congregation and see a bunch of people looking like they’d rather be at the dentist. Think about Who you’re singing to and all the reasons why you’re singing to Him, and I challenge you to keep a frown on your face! Just the simple act of smiling while you’re singing will do wonders for your minister of music (and for you!).

5. Think before you complain.

Has your minister of music said or done something that’s clearly a sin or false doctrine? If so, you have a biblical obligation  to go to him -kindly and in love- and talk to him about it directly.

Is your complaint a matter of personal preference- style of music, whether or not he wears a tie, etc.? Give it 24 hours. Does it still seem just as important? Could you possibly be a servant to him (and others in the congregation whose opinion is the opposite of yours) by overlooking an offense and not complaining?

If you do feel the need to voice your concern (and there are valid concerns that aren’t sin-related), approach your minister of music the way you would want to be approached. Instead of, “Turn that dadgum volume DOWN!” how about, “I was wondering if it would be possible to ask the sound tech to lower the volume in the house speakers a little? My baby’s ears are very sensitive and she gets fussy when it’s that loud. I hate missing worship when I have to take her out to the lobby.” Instead of, “Hymns are so boring. I don’t see why we have to sing them half the time,” how about, “I really loved those two worship songs we sang this morning! Do you think we might be able to sing more songs like that soon?” Christ wants us to be kind to one another, so show your minister of music a little “Golden Rule” love.

6. Speak encouraging words often.

It’s been our experience, and seems to be the general consensus among ministers of music, that the most common kind of feedback they get is negative feedback. People are much quicker to complain than affirm. Buck the trend. Did he choose one of your favorite songs for the service? Did a certain song help you to understand one of God’s attributes better? Did the choir do a nice job on their anthem? Are you praying for him? Tell him. He appreciates it more than you know.

7. Show tangible appreciation.

It is amazing what even the smallest gift can do to lift my husband’s spirits. A card of appreciation (I have come across cards that he has saved for years), something related to one of his hobbies, a church member buying him lunch at a fast food place. They might be small items monetarily speaking, but their message is, “I care about you, and I appreciate your hard work.” And that’s priceless.

 

We have been blessed over the last two decades to serve at several churches that had members who were very good at encouraging their minister of music. Their love and support made my husband’s ministry a joy. What are some ways you can think of to encourage the minister of music at your church and spread that same kind of joy?


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.

Church, Encouragement

Throwback Thursday ~ A Word Fitly Spoken: 11 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

October is Pastor Appreciation Month!
Show your pastors some appreciation by encouraging them!

Originally published February 23, 2018

I hope you have the blessing of sitting under good, biblical preaching at your church. I do. I’m always so thankful to hear God’s word beautifully preached in my own church, and I’m thankful for the all of the other godly men out there laboring faithfully each week to proclaim the truth of the gospel to the sheep God has entrusted to them.

Are you thankful for your pastor and a church that rightly handles God’s word? Are you telling anybody you’re thankful? Are you telling your pastor?

The ministry is a tough job, and pastors need all the encouragement they can get. Sometimes it’s the little things you say and do that can be a blessing to your pastor and make his job easier and more joyful. Proverbs 25:11 says:

Here are eleven ways you can encourage your pastor (and don’t forget your associate pastor, minister of music, youth pastor, etc.!)

1.

Pray for your pastor

Some specifics you can pray for:

💭 His wife and children

💭 His stress level, and for peace

💭 His finances and provision

💭 His marriage, and that he will be a good father

💭 That God will grow him in his understanding and handling of Scripture

💭 That God will grow him in discernment, and guard him from being influenced by false teachers/doctrine

💭 That God will protect him from temptation and lead him to repentance when he sins

💭 And here are even more ways to pray for your pastor.

Remember to tell your pastor you’re praying for him, and ask him if there’s anything in particular you can pray for him about.

2.
Show Up

First of all, Scripture says you’re supposed to be a faithful, active member of your local church. Second, it’s very discouraging to pastors when church members who are perfectly able to attend faithfully simply choose to let other, non-essential things take precedence.

3.
Be Present

Pay attention, be engaged, and have a pleasant look on your face during the sermon. If you’ve ever stood in front of a group of people, you know how easy it is to tell who’s “with you” and who’s not. And the more “with yous” there are out there, the more encouraging it is.

4.
A Word of Thanks

Just say thank you. Thank you for being my pastor, for being faithful to the Word, for encouraging me, for working so hard, for studying well…

5.
Submit to His Leadership

Take Hebrews 13:17-18 seriously:


Yes, there are abusive pastors out there. Yes, there are pastors who are flagrantly disobedient to Scripture in their leadership. If that’s your pastor, leave that church and find a pastor you can trust (yes, I know it’s hard), and whose leadership you can submit to. Don’t be the constantly complaining, argumentative, nit picky thorn in your pastor’s side.

6.
Don’t Major on the Minors

If you do need to speak to your pastor about something you disagree with him about, whenever possible, try to make sure it’s a biblical issue rather than an issue of preference, and make sure you do it in love and kindness, not in an attacking way.

7.
Wait, Mr. Postman…

Isn’t it nice to open your mail or e-mail and find something besides bills and bad news? Send your pastor a note, card, or e-mail of encouragement.

8.
C is for Cookie (and Calories)

Think before you bake. When I want to send someone a little token of encouragement, my first instinct is always to bake something. But a lot of pastors, like everyone else these days, are dieting, so use wisdom. Maybe a gift card to his favorite store or restaurant, a book by his favorite author, or a service he needs performed would be better. Here are some more ideas if you want to give your pastor a token of appreciation.

9.
A Word Fitly Spoken

Tell your pastor something you learned from the sermon or how God has been growing you through his preaching. Let him know how your Sunday school class is maturing. Tell him about the good progress that’s being made in the committee you serve on or the ministry you serve in.

10.
Perfect Timing

Do not pull your pastor aside right before the service to discuss anything that could wait until later. He needs to be focused on preaching and worship. And don’t detain him for long after the service, either. He’s probably hungry, tired, has to go to the bathroom, and wants to get home to his family. Make an appointment during the week.

11.
Nobody’s Perfect

Remember that your pastor is human. He’s going to sin. He’s going to get things wrong. Don’t assume he knows why you’re upset with him. Don’t hold a grudge. Extend the same grace you would to anyone else, and forgive.

What are some other ways we can encourage our pastors?

Church, Encouragement, Ministry, Top 10

Throwback Thursday ~ Top 10 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastors During Pastor Appreciation Month

Originally published October 13, 2017

I’m so glad somebody thought up the idea of Pastor Appreciation Month and made it a thing. If you’ve never been a pastor (or been married to one), it’s difficult to adequately convey just how simultaneously challenging, joyful, devastating, frustrating, and fulfilling it can be. If you have a good pastor, who rightly divides God’s Word and is a man of godly character, you are very blessed. And that goes for your minister of music, associate pastor, youth pastor, etc., too. Be sure you show all of them (there’s nothing worse than being left out while everybody else is being appreciated) your appreciation for their hard work, and your encouragement, support, and love not just during Pastor Appreciation Month, but all year through. Here are ten ways you can do just that.

1. Pray for your pastors.
Time and again, when pastors are surveyed about what their church members can do to bless them the most, the number one answer is, “Pray for me.” Your pastors need you to pray for them personally, in their work, for their marriages and families, and for the health of your church. Pastor Appreciation Month is a perfect time to make a commitment to pray for your pastors on a regular basis. (And don’t forget to periodically tell them you’re praying for them!) Need some suggestions on how to pray? Check out my article Top 10 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor.

2. Words of encouragement
Pastors get a lot of complaints, criticism, and words of discouragement. Brighten your pastor’s day by telling him something specific you learned during the sermon. Tell your minister of music you really enjoyed the choir anthem this morning. Repeat to your youth pastor something positive your child has said about him or the youth group. Drop your pastor a note, e-mail, or social media message of support. Make a point of looking for ways – all year long – that you can offer “a word fitly spoken.”

3. Babysit
If your pastor and his wife have young children, offer to babysit so they can have a date night or go Christmas shopping for the kids. 

4. Gift cards
Perhaps along with the offer to babysit, you could give your pastor and his wife a gift card to a local restaurant. Gift cards to his favorite specialty store (outdoorsman stores, music stores, etc.), a Christian retailer, or one of his favorite online stores (or a more general site like Amazon if you’re not sure of his preferences) make great tokens of appreciation, too.

5. Honorary offerings
Is there a certain missionary or mission project that’s near and dear to your pastor’s heart? A crisis pregnancy center? A church plant he’d like to support? What about donating Gideon Bibles? Put out the word to the congregation, take up a special offering (or simply give as an individual), and make a donation in your pastor’s name.

6. Make sure his needs are met.
Your pastors shouldn’t be living like televangelists, but they shouldn’t be struggling to survive, either. Surprisingly, many people have unbiblical opinions about pastors’ salaries, from the notion that anyone in any kind of ministry should be doing it for free, to the downright evil concept of keeping the pastor near the poverty level to make sure he stays humble (yes, really). The Bible says pastors have a right to make their living from preaching the gospel, and that a workman is worthy of his hire. Check with your church’s finance and/or personnel committee. Is your pastor making an appropriate salary? Are his housing and insurance needs being met? Is he receiving adequate vacation and sick days? If not, see what you can do to help rectify the situation.

7. Conferences
There are lots of fantabulous Christian conferences out there that your pastor would probably love to attend, but it’s not in the church budget and he can’t afford it, personally. Find out his favorite or choose a great one (make sure you vet the speakers first to make sure they’re doctrinally sound), take up a special offering, and send him there, all expenses paid (conference admission and fees, travel, meals, lodging, and some extra “walking around money” for purchasing books, gifts, souvenirs, etc.).

8. Volunteer
One of the things that can be stressful for pastors is empty positions that need godly people to fill them. Volunteer to teach that Sunday School class, play the piano at the nursing home, help chaperone the youth trip, work in the nursery, get trained and run the sound board. Find out where you’re needed at your church and jump in and serve.

9. Help out around the house.
Pastors have those “fix it” needs around the house just like everybody else does. Are you good at repairing cars, fixing roofs, mowing grass, maintaining air conditioning units, cooking meals, or another special skill? Save your pastor some time, money, and effort by putting your experience to work for him at his home. 

10. Set the example of a healthy church member.
What could be more encouraging to a pastor than biblically healthy church members? Study your Bible. Be faithful in your church attendance. Pray for your pastor and the church. Serve where you’re needed. Don’t complain or criticize your pastor and others over petty matters. Avoid controversies and personality conflicts, and be a peacemaker. Walk in humility and selflessness, and give glory to God. Show appreciation for your pastors by setting a godly example for other church members and encouraging them to do the same. 

💥Bonus!  💥 Get on social media, e-mail, or the phone and share this article around so your pastors don’t have to!

What are some other good ways we can show appreciation for,
and encourage, our pastors?